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Romney may have lost, but the voting system is still broken

Romney may have lost, but the voting system is still broken

by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis
November 20, 2012

Two weeks have passed since the night of the Rove meltdown and Romney's electoral loss. Like the days after a major sports championship, everybody has an opinion on two things: why victory was achieved this time and how victory can be achieved the next time. However, political reality is quite different than sports. Democracy is more than a game. And if our current democracy is a game, the people lost in 2012.

America is at best a minimal democracy. It functionally has two parties, one more than a dictatorship. It allegedly grants one person one vote each election, although this is not constitutionally guaranteed. Our elections fail to meet even minimal standards by allowing the racist suppression of votes that we thought was outlawed in 1965. What this election has made clear is that more than a small minority seek to erase 140 years of struggle from Andrew Jackson to Lyndon Johnson to secure and defend these most basic tenets of democracy: the right to vote.

Here at the Columbus Free Press, we believe there was an attempted Election Day coup. We believe but cannot yet prove that Karl Rove was far from being delusional when he expected to win Ohio. He thought the fix was in. We assert, and can and will prove that there was a criminal conspiracy that violated civil rights laws to deprive certain segments of the Ohio citizenry of their franchise based on race. We can and will hold those responsible for these crimes against democracy and humanity accountable within the limits of our power. We believe that Ohio Secretary of State is a criminal and an objective racist for his attacks on minority voting rights.

Many progressive media outlets, including the DailyKos, believe that Karl Rove and others will break every law to suppress Democratic voters, but would never, ever tamper with the vote counts on nontransparent voting equipment. Even when there's 130% voter turnout in a small town in Ohio, they declare it a computer glitch. The ‘Kos, AlterNet and ThinkProgress believe a superior get-out-the-vote effort by the Obama campaign overcame voter suppression to deliver victory. These self-congratulatory echoes drown out the facts that an uncounted but huge number of citizens were denied the vote or forced to vote provisionally. Their votes will go uncounted.

The number of uncounted votes may well reach 1000 in a single, predominantly African American ward in Columbus. An estimated 40,000 provisional voters will never have their vote counted in Ohio. The number of people who could not vote because of long lines for early voting in inner-city Ohio will go uncounted. Obama's promise to "do something about that" is worth as much as his 2008 pledge to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, in our eyes.

The various memes on voter suppression around the country have faded in favor of "our guy won, so the casualties are acceptable." Victory on a narrow basis for single party is neither a victory for democracy nor a triumph for the citizens whose votes were stolen.

The power of the other half of the anti-democratic coin – electronic voter fraud – is still very much in place. The machines designed for hacking, the right-aligned voting machine companies, the nontransparency of the systems and software, court decisions, the virtual factory of denial and the political hacks who benefit from them, are all still very much a part of our system. The partisan for-profit corporations are still in a position to change the outcome of any election in the nation. The official forces of the Democratic Party and the administration have been at best silent and at worst dismissive of this proven reality.

The establishment, rather than pausing to determine the wisdom of e-voting and the security of e-voting methods, continues to rush forward with new programs and new vulnerabilities. During this election, just as the Free Press began to ask serious questions about the Scytl e-voting company, that same company announced it would assist voters in Alaska with voting by fax and email. We can expect that new horizons of electronic election fraud will be realized in the 2014 midterm elections if the widespread introduction of smartphone and internet voting moves forward.

The day-to-day political dialogue in America is frighteningly skewed by this combination of voter suppression and electronic fraud. Combining these two post-election ignored realities with a corporately biased media, and polls based on misleading demographic sampling, gives America a very dirty mirror with which to view its own "democratic" image. If a true accounting of every voter that intended to vote but could not was made, and combined with an accounting of votes flipped by fraud and swallowed by glitches, a very different America would appear before our eyes. Combine these lost citizens with further huge numbers of disenfranchised ex-felons, and this nation has a clearer picture of itself than the one that is presented in the mainstream corporate media.

This picture would not be one of Romney losing by a 3%. It would be a broad repudiation of the Right by a large majority of Americans. This repudiation would vastly shift American politics to the center Left, not to the corporate center that the Democratic Party corporate triangulators. Even today, as the Republican Party sharpens its long knives for an internal struggle not seen since 1964, pundits are calling for a more "purple" politics based on bi-partisan compromise. The functional end logic of this is corporate single party rule – the antithesis of democracy.

The constant failure of the "liberal" activists to defend the voting rights of ordinary Americans causes them instead to lash out at the Left and deride any third party efforts, like the Green Party, in the name of propping up an indefensible centrist viewpoint. By allowing the pre-election purging of ten million or so voters and the blatant racist disenfranchisement of millions of voters on Election Day, these liberal layworkers for corporate centrism accept skewed election results that erroneously show an evenly divided electorate.

The leadership of the right, manifested in both socially reactionary and hyper-corporatist wings knows that Romney's "47% gaffe" was no gaffe at all. It has a subtext that is racially coded and rooted in a politic more than a century old. Voter suppression and electronic election fraud continue exactly because those in power believe that nearly half the country deserves no say whatsoever. The true subtext is not that the 47% of America receiving some kind of assistance or another will not vote Republican, but that 47% of America should not be permitted to vote at all.

Combine Romney's 47% statement with Rove's Ohio expectations and Trump's birtherism and you get a picture of how a small minority sees America and seeks to manipulate it. The Right sees an America where democratic rights apply only for themselves. They see a place where a religious and corporate minority rule over the majority – one where "real" Americans who decide who can vote and who can run for office. They dream of an America as it was before the 14th amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, bolstered by an Electoral College which existed only to preserve the power of slaveholders. Rove's passionate attachment to the fix that fizzled fits into a deeper strategy based around an Electoral College victory, not a nod to popular suffrage. Failure to deal with mass disenfranchisement, fraud and an archaic system based in slavery is a sure guarantee of the possibility of minority rule for many decades to come. The system needs systematic and national overhaul.

The struggle for democracy and for a just and humane society involves more than voting. It involves constant citizen participation at all levels in all decisions. As long as society relies on an election system that is designed to be gamed and defrauded, then gamed and defrauded it will be. The end of disenfranchisement based on race, age, and economic class must start now. That end could be the beginning of a more direct, participatory democracy based on a more fully informed citizenry enjoying a more full determination of its own destiny.


Gerry Bello is the chief researcher at the Columbus Free Press. He holds a degree in computer security from Antioch College. Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press. He holds Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

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